The newest “in” place for the French crowd in Montreal to gather, restaurant Les Tontons Flingueurs on chemin de la Côte-des-Neiges, near Université de Montréal, attracts a sharp mix of French students, ex-pats and locals. When the French presidential primaries were held two weeks ago, the owners showed continuous coverage on the HD flat-screen television. Les Tontons Flingueurs became the place where Montreal’s French community rallied, and crowded in, to follow the election primary news.
When co-owners Francois Harmant and Matheo Alary chose the name for their restaurant, it was borrowed from a 1963 black-and-white French film (loosely translated as “The Hired Guns’ Uncles”) that is a cult, film noir classic for the true French citizen, along the lines of Serge Gainsbourg - a little rebellious. Opening a restaurant, it was a tip of the hat to one of the most famous scenes in the film, gangsters from opposing sides, in the kitchen of a restaurant, trying to nonchalantly drink together while keeping a wary eye on each other.
Just as any speakeasy in the ’30’s was gangster fueled, decorated with red banquettes and mirrors, Les Tonton Flingueurs gives proper due to the image, with a Parisian bistro twist. No attention to detail has been overlooked: the small Eiffel Tower, an antique wall map of the heart of Paris, a Paris Metro map, and even a silver model airplane as a wink to the co-owner’s Air Canada flight attendant girlfriend. In the men’s bathroom are various quotes from the movie, including the line “Touche pas au Grisbi, salope!”, which comes from the film’s kitchen conversation.
My French husband Thierry and I arrived for lunch late in the afternoon, post lunch crowd, and were able to do what the French do best: eat in a leisurely fashion. The entree crêpes are made with buckwheat flour, giving each the authentic flavor and consistency of Breton crêpes, harking back to the crêpes found in restaurants such as Crêperie Ty Breiz in Paris, made to be drunk with the strong cider from Brittany. Despite the recommendation we try the crêpes, we passed on this visit, enticed by other intriguing offerings on the diverse menu. I ordered Le Gros Deguelulasse, a juicy, thick hamburger stuffed in the bun with ground beef, grilled onions, sautéed mushrooms, bacon, creamed cheese and fresh tomatoes. With my Stella Artois beer, simply put, it was outstanding. Thierry ordered Le Cul de Poule, a sandwich of white chicken, brie, honey, apples, lettuce, tomatoes, drizzled with a cider vinaigrette. Fresh, and a perfect meld of flavors. As the French would say, superb!